Chris Dean (vocals/guitar) formed his first band No Swastikas in York, England in 1981 along with Nick King (drums); the pair were later joined by Martin Hewes (bass/vocals) who also went under the names Martin Militant, Martin Leon and Martin Bottomley. Both Chris and Martin were members of the SWP (Socialist Workers Party). The band moved to London in March 1982 and changed their name to the Redskins and were notable for their far-left politics, anti-racist/anti-Nazi stance and catchy, danceable songs. Their first two 45s were released by CNT Records (founded by Jon Langford of The Mekons, who also produced the band's raucous debut platter).
When the coal miners strike began in March 1984, the Redskins became a key part of it's soundtrack. When they had first started, all the band's talk of strikes and unions and "the crisis of capitalism" had seemed anachronistic to many ears. But Chris was proven to be prophetic. He'd told the NME when the Redskins first started "There's a good chance that in two or three years time, over here an upsurge in workers militancy will bring a crisis. We might come out of it with no arms or legs, completely wrecked and defeated. The confrontation's inevitable but the outcome isn't."
Their first single for Decca "Keep On Keepin' On!" became an anthem. By then the miners strike had reached a crucial stage with miners beginning to be literally starved back to work ("One by one we take the money, ten by ten we face defeat") and it's rousing, soul stirring chorus perfectly embodied the optimism and anger of the time.
In November the band organised an anti-apartheid tour and planned to simultaneously release "Kick Over The Statues!" as a benefit single. When Decca refused, the Redskins stole the master tapes (a trick learned from Dexys Midnight Runners) and gave them to the independant label Abstract who rush released the single with all the royalities donated to the ANC and the South African Trade Unionists.
About the band's demise, Chris Dean stated,"It became harder and harder to be a member of the SWP and the Redskins. The group was out of time, out of date and out of step with the political reality of Britain in 1986. We were becoming more rock and roll than political." The Redskins left behind a debt of £136,000 and their unfulfilled fantasy of revolution intact. [partially taken from the band's unofficial MySpace page, with additions and corrections]
Download: "The Peasant Army" (45 b-side)
Download: "Unionize" (45 b-side)
Download: "Keep On Keepin' On!" (album track)
Download: "You Want It, They Got It" (45 b-side)
Download: "Young And Proud" (45 b-side)
Download: "Plateful Of Hateful" (live in London, '85)
Download: "Levi Stubbs' Tears" (EP track)
"Talk of riots and petrol bombs and revolution all day long.
But if we fail to organize, we'll waste our lives on protest songs."